Monday, January 18, 2010
Transparency in Black and White
At the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, I found these laminated pieces of paper at the entrance to galleries, near the visitor comment book. At first glance, I couldn't imagine what they were--definitely not an object or interpretive label; definitely not a temporary out-of-order sign--what could they be?
I was fascinated to look closer and discover that it was the Quarterly Feedback Report--a summary of visitor comments for that quarter at the gallery. There were 152,877 visitors--and 1078 of them left comments. The comments were categorized: positive, negative, suggestions, observations and enquiries. What kinds of comments? They provided us with some samples: one visitor wants the welcome sign in Gaelic; another appreciates the seating, and six people wrote some variation of "the whole building is going to waste. I don't like modern art."
And, with the comments, there is also the section "The actions we have taken." They don't seem like radical change, but if I were a regular visitor, I might be keeping an eye for that welcome label in Gaelic or other changes.
The museum is a part of Glasgow Museums, a division of Culture and Sport in Glasgow--so it's a government-run museum--and perhaps there are staff who groan at the thought of producing this report every quarter. I can't think of another place I've seen such reporting--although the Indianapolis Museum of Art does it in a much broader way with their on-line dashboard. When I was working with museums in Ukraine, I was often asked about museum statistics in the US. Because US museums are primarily non-governmental, with independent boards of directors, public statistical reporting such as this seems less common and harder to come by.
So kudos to Glasgow's city government for museum transparency!